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Hispanic Business Students Association marks half a century of impact, growth

A group of people seated on an outdoor staircase all wearing black

The Hispanic Business Students Association spring 2024 executive board. Courtesy photo

April 18, 2024

When Michelle Macias, a native of Yuma, Arizona, became a business entrepreneurship and management student at Arizona State University in 2020, she was three hours away from home and stuck in her dorm room during the COVID-19 lockdown.

So, she searched Sun Devil Sync for Latino and Spanish communities.

"I wanted to find my place," Macias says. "At first, I was very lost."

Then, the Hispanic Business Students Association, or HBSA, came up in the search results.

Macias joined one of the association's Zoom meetings. In the four years since then, she's gotten more involved, serving on the annual banquet and awards committee to get familiar with HBSA and then as an outreach coordinator and vice president of operations on the association's 14-person executive board.

Michelle Macias, business entrepreneurship and management student
Michelle Macias, president of the Hispanic Business Students Association at ASU. Courtesy photo

Macias, now president of the HBSA, will graduate in a few weeks.

But first, on April 17, she celebrated with her HBSA "familia" at the association's 50th-anniversary banquet and awards ceremony at the PERA Club Pavilion in Tempe.

Over the past 50 years since launching the Chicano Business Students Association in 1974 — which became the Hispanic Business Students Association in 1979 — the student-run organization has prepared its members to be future leaders, served its communities, promoted diversity and created a progressive learning environment.

Macias credits the association for the opportunity to be a leader, grow as a person, and network.

"As a member, we see each other everywhere," she says. "It's not just about recognizing faces; it's about genuine interactions, asking about each other's day and helping. We're there for each other when a member is in need, like if their car breaks down.

"We've built a home away from home, which is especially meaningful for those of us far from our families. It offers us a sense of belonging and dependable support, even for members with local families; it's an extended community, right here in Phoenix."

Loui Olivas, aka Dr. O, a professor emeritus of management, says the HBSA has mentored hundreds of members for decades, supporting them as they begin their careers in business. He has served as the academic advisor for the association since 1979, a tenure spanning 45 years.

Olivas credits Nelda Garcia, a senior faculty member working in what was then called the Department of Administrative Services and later renamed the Department of Management, with launching the HBSA and recruiting him to be a co-advisor during his first semester teaching. Garcia was the first Latina to attend the ASU business school in 1972.

According to Olivas, there were very few Hispanic business students at the time.

That has changed over the decades. As of fall 2023, there were 4,521 Hispanic and Latino students in the W. P. Carey School of Business, 21.5% of the 21,008 students in the business school.

Anette Cardenas, HBSA member and finance and business data analytics student
HBSA member Anette Cardenas.​ Courtesy photo

Anette Cardenas, an international student from Bolivia studying finance and business data analytics, joined HBSA during her sophomore year in 2021. That's also the first time she stepped on campus post lockdown.

Cardenas rose through HBSA, beginning as a finance committee member and moving to director of IT, vice president of finance and president before passing the baton to Macias in January.

"The thing I love most about being in HBSA is the team environment where we support a large club," says Cardenas. "There's a substantial amount of work with a lot of responsibility."

Organizational skills are one of the many that association members learn. HBSA also teaches resume writing and interview preparation. Workshops with local businesses provide insights into internships and a deeper understanding of company strategies, goals and culture, while general meetings and networking events create a platform for members to engage with alums, community partners and corporate sponsors.

The association's commitment to social impact is evident in its community service endeavors, which include an annual fundraiser supporting immigrant youth refugees and various local service projects.

Further enriching the HBSA experience, the Distinguished Lecture Series brings successful Latino leaders to share their success stories.

Peter Murrieta (left) with business communications student Noah Patch
Noah Patch, HBSA outreach coordinator and business communications student (right), poses with Peter Murrieta, head writer and executive producer of the Disney Channel's "Wizards of Waverly Place," at an HBSA Distinguished Lecture Series event. Murrieta is the deputy director at The Sidney Poitier New American Film School. Courtesy photo

Cardenas says executive board members are expected to attend at least 80% of HBSA events. Given the high volume of them — 70 in the last semester — board members must proactively keep on top of upcoming activities and stay in touch with relevant partners within the association to coordinate tasks.

"I always tell people that your end goal for HBSA is to be an executive board member," says Phoenix native Noah Patch, outreach coordinator for the association. "That's your resume-building. Besides resume-building, professional self-leadership development and connecting with different organizations, I get these friends, this family." 

Patch, a junior in business communications, was introduced to the HBSA by a friend who invited him to an event. He became executive assistant shortly after joining in fall 2022.

Andrea Quijada, HBSA member and business communications student
Business communications sophomore Andrea Quijada. Courtesy photo

Just like Patch, business communications sophomore Andrea Quijada didn't hesitate to get involved after joining the HBSA last spring. She first served on the Community Relations Committee and then as the community relations director. She's also involved in HBSA committees this semester, including the banquet and Family Fun Day.

"It's a club meant to bring out the potential in you, a place of growth and opportunity," says Quijada. "If you put effort in, you have the potential to grow, whether on committees or the executive board."

Taking advantage of the HBSA as a launchpad for growth and opportunity, Alejandra Lopez draws from her first-generation, native-born roots, with her family hailing from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico.

"I'm very proud of where my family is from; I love the culture," says the interdisciplinary studies student who has concentrations in business and communications.

Alejandra Lopez, HBSA vice president of operations and interdisciplinary studies student with concentrations in business and communications
HBSA Vice President of Operations Alejandra Lopez.​ Courtesy photo​​​.

Since her first semester in 2020, Lopez has held four HBSA Executive Board roles, including executive assistant, activities director, vice president of marketing and vice president of operations. She has her sights on the presidency in the fall. 

Lopez acknowledges Dr. O for keeping her in check during her mentoring meetings with him.

"He's meticulous and detail-oriented, traits that have taught me the importance of soft skills like follow-up and attention to detail in business," Lopez explains. "I forgot to print documents for him for one of our meetings. He clarified the importance of being professional by asking me if a CEO would be OK with someone who can't remember to bring the right paperwork."

Michael Garcia'92 BS in purchase/logistics management, and a former HBSA member and first-generation student from Indiana, advises the association's executive board and general members, sharing his experience in sales, supply chain and recruiting.

"I help them with resume-building, interviewing and career advice," says Garcia. "My goal is to be a dependable resource for the students. I moved here from out of state, so I understand what many students feel when they move here from out of town. So, I want them to feel they have someone to lean on for advice or support."

Garcia says the HBSA consisted of about 30 to 50 members when he was part of the association. Today, there are 114 members. HBSA reaches its audience via multiple channels, including its website, social channels and weekly email newsletter, with over 2,000 subscribers.

"It fills me with an incredible sense of warmth internally when I attend an event and run into a former student," says Olivas. "I'm always eager to hear about what they are doing and where they are in life. Some have become grandparents, others are raising families and some have risen to become CEOs or started small businesses. It's deeply rewarding to see the paths they have taken.

"I make it a point to ask them, 'What else have you accomplished since we last spoke? Are you pursuing a master's degree? What books are you currently reading? Have you joined Toastmasters International? If not, why not?' I ask about their methods for self-improvement and what they're working toward; I'm still their best critic."

HBSA does not require a commitment or membership for first-time attendees. The meetings are open to all majors, free of charge, and interested students don't need to be Hispanic or speak Spanish to join.

"We pride ourselves on being an inclusive organization without the typical barriers that might deter participation in student clubs," Cardenas says.

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